In 1949, Atlanta entrepreneur Edward Porter saw an opportunity in the demand for skilled office workers spawned by the booming post World War II economy. Job seekers, mostly women, needed training in secretarial skills and the use of business machines. In response to the marketplace, Porter founded Massey College to provide the kind of quality training that leads to good jobs. This commitment to educational excellence, to good jobs for graduates and to fulfilling the needs of business has been the operational premise of Massey College and later The Art Institute of Atlanta for the past 50 years. Proactively responding to the needs of the marketplace, the college has adjusted its curriculum as "machines" and then "technology" have changed, and our economy and our region have evolved. Massey's first decade clearly established these traditions and values.
Harry E. "Edward" Porter establishes the Speedwriting Institute of Massey Business College through a franchise arrangement with the Massey Business College of Jacksonville, Florida. The college moves to several downtown locations throughout the 1950s.
Three Atlanta investors establish a for-profit business and secretarial school under the name of Massey Business College. Porter remains as president and is appointed a director.
The school name is changed to Massey College, a shift from serving as a business training school towards establishing an identity as an academic business institution.
During the 1960s, Massey College continued to respond proactively to the changing needs of business and the growth of Atlanta as an urban center. Massey began to reach data processing, became the first private college in Georgia to purchase a computer, and even began to offer law and real estate courses. In the mid-1960s, Massey had a major "makeover" when it began to offer training in the applied arts for the first time. Fashion merchandising, modeling, and interior design anticipated the growing retail and service sectors. President Jack Barnette, a public relations professional who succeeded Porter in 1965, had a flair for promotion. His response to the "mod" spirit of the times, including the initiation of the Massey-London fashion program, the signature Massey double-decker buses, and the establishment of The Hobble Shop, a retail shop run by students, resulted in growing enrollment and profitability. Throughout the decade, Massey was a leader among proprietary schools. By improving its curriculum--including liberal arts requirements—and by hiring faculty members with graduate degrees, it became one of the first in Georgia to grant associate in arts degrees.
Massey College is one of two private, for-profit colleges in Georgia to gain junior college certification by The State Board of Education.
Massey College changes its name to Massey Junior College and begins to offer its first creative courses in fashion merchandising in addition to business courses.
Massey Investment Company forms and purchases Massey Junior College. Board member Thomas J. "Jack" Barnette succeeds Ed Porter and becomes the new president. The Fashion Institute of Technology, Massey Law College, the Modeling Institute of America and the Institute of Interior Design all became new divisions.
Massey Junior College relocates to the Western Union Building on Marietta Street and occupies 40,000 square feet. The Hobble Shop, a fashion store run by the students, opens. The college acquires the Barbizon Towers apartment for student housing. Enrollment triples to almost 1,100 students.
Barnette purchases the signature "double-decker" Massey buses.
The decade of the 1970s began in crisis. It ended in a total metamorphosis including a new name, location, national affiliation and a further shift to a creative applied arts curriculum. In 1970 financial difficulties in a holding company that had invested in Massey almost resulted in bankruptcy and the dissolution of the college. Fortunately, Royston Services, Inc. a private career institution in Pittsburgh, PA, saw Massey potential to be Atlanta's premiere training center for the professional applied arts. The rescue resulted in a name change to The Art Institute of Atlanta in 1975, and the college becoming part of a national network of schools committed to creative professional education and managed by RSI, which became Educational Management Corporation. The curriculum was redefined: more applied arts programs were offered and business modeling courses were dropped. Also in the 1970s proprietary schools and colleges such as Massey/Art Institute were able to offer students opportunities to participate in federal aid programs. Ultimately, this victory resulted in greater accountability at the college and improved training and placement services. The Art Institute of Atlanta was one of the leaders in Georgia in seeking creditability for proprietary schools through the development of degree programs and accreditation.
When Massey Junior College encounters financial problems, the faculty volunteers to teach without pay so that students can complete the fall quarter.
Royston Services, Inc. (RSI), a private institutional and career counseling company headquartered in Pittsburgh, works with the college once it has been placed in receivership. Its experience in managing The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, the oldest two-year private art school in the nation, convinces creditors to accept a reorganization plan. RSI, later renamed Educational Management Corporation (EDMC), acquires the college.
EDMC began emphasizing an applied arts curriculum while still maintaining Massey's business program. The college receives accreditation for the first time the Accrediting Commission of the National Association of Trade and Technical Schools. Enrollment begins to rebuild after dropping as low as 300 students.
Massey Junior College legally changes its name to The Art Institute of Atlanta.
Full time equivalent enrollment is 532.
The art and fashion divisions move to 3376 Peachtree Street in Buckhead.
EDMC sells the Massey business College division to a group of investors. The Art Institute of Atlanta is one of eight division schools operated nationally by EDMC. The college hosts the New York Art Directors Show.
In the 1980s, The Art Institute of Atlanta began to focus solely on educating creative professionals. In its usual entrepreneurial spirit, the college eliminated those tracks for which there was low student employer demand, such as fashion illustration, and redesigned others, such as merchandising, to better match industry needs. It explored other curriculum tracks, including music business and landscape design. Even more significantly, the college expanded its applied arts curriculum by providing technical education in areas such as photography and graphic arts. The Art Institute was one of the first colleges in the region were students could learn computer graphic skills. Just as Massey College trained students to operate the most modern business machines in the 1950s, The Art Institute of Atlanta made a commitment in the 1980s to the creative technology education that continues to distinguish the colleges today.
The Art Institute of Atlanta becomes a candidate for accreditation by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The college begins to teach computer graphics, creates an alliance with the Music Business Institute, and eliminates fashion design and visual merchandising as part of its curriculum.
The Art Institute is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to award the associate in arts degree and completes a $3.5 million renovation and expansion, occupying the entire Peachtree Road building. The new first-floor gallery is named in memory of President Charles Janssen, who oversaw the renovation project.
The Art Institute addresses issues of student retention, admission standards, and debt responsibility in response to public disclosures about proprietary schools in general. As a result, the college significantly improves its track record, thus better serving its students.
Full-time equivalent enrollment is 1255.
Growth, flexibility, and quick responses to demands of the marketplace distinguishes the decade of the 1990s. The Art Institute of Atlanta invested over the past decade in the faculty and infrastructure to provide instruction in fields such as Web design, multimedia, and consistently has updated more traditional career tracks such as photography. Furthermore, by offering four-year degree programs with an emphasis on academic courses as well as creative courses, the college has strengthened its reputation and that of its graduates. Always entrepreneurial, the college established a culinary arts program in 1991 that enrolled about 400 students in 1999. Atlanta's growing restaurant and hospitality scene has created a demand for the program's well-trained graduates. In 1999, in response to increasing enrollment, The Art Institute of Atlanta moved to a new facility in Dunwoody. Twenty-three schools across the country, including The Art Institute of Atlanta, are under the umbrella of The Art Institutes network operated by the Educational Management Corporation in Pittsburgh. Robert B. Knutson, EDMC's chairman and CEO, was involved in the Massey Junior College reorganization in the early 1970s. He has maintained his personal interest in The Art Institute of Atlanta, and has continued to lead the Educational Management Corporation to continuing growth and vitality.
Culinary Arts program is founded.
The Art Institute of Atlanta is accredited by SACS to award the bachelor's degree in interior design - its first four-year program.
Janet Day is appointed the college’s first female president. An additional bachelor's degree is offered in graphic design, followed soon after by one in computer animation.
Of all 1998 Art Institute of Atlanta graduates available for employment, 93 percent are working in a field related to their program of study within six months of graduation.
The Art Institute of Atlanta moves to its new 115,000-square -foot, state-of -the-industry home in Dunwoody. The college adds bachelor’s programs in multimedia & Web design and photographic imaging. Enrollment for fall quarter is approximately 1900.
The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools reaffirms accreditation for The Art Institute of Atlanta. The Art Institutes family includes 23 schools. Enrollment for fall quarter is approximately 2200.
American Culinary Federation (ACF) renews accreditation for the associate in arts degree in culinary arts.
The Art Institute of Atlanta introduces a bachelor of science degree in culinary arts management for summer quarter. Enrollment for fall quarter is 2700. The college expands to a neighboring building to house the interior design department with classrooms, computer lab, student lounge, and office space. The Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER) renews accreditation for the interior design program.
The Art Institute of Atlanta introduces a bachelor of arts degree in advertising and a bachelor of fine arts degree in game art & design for spring quarter. A bachelor of fine arts degree in illustration & design, a bachelor of arts degree and an associate in arts degree in audio production are offered for fall quarter. Also for fall quarter, The Art Institute remodels its multimedia & Web design program to offer a bachelor of fine arts degree and an associate in arts degree in interactive media design.